ALTHOUGH Willie Mullins was the dominant trainer at the two-day Fairyhouse meeting on Saturday and Sunday we had plenty of pointers as to where the major honours will rest later in the season.
Mullins himself will have a contender for the tag of leading staying novice hurdler in the shape of Sous Les Cieux, which just got the better of the highly regarded Galileo’s Choice in the Grade One Royal Bond Novice Hurdle over two miles on Sunday.
A French bumper winner, the five-year-old was sent off an odds-on favourite on his Irish debut back in January but was turned over by Bayross. There were excuses for him that day and these looked like being valid when he trounced Rourke’s Cross in a two mile and a half maiden hurdle at the venue in November. That display saw him start favourite over Galileo’s Choice, which was an impressive maiden hurdle winner at the Galway festival but had the class to win at Group Three level on the flat.
Dazzling Susie set a good pace but by the home turn there were only two in contention, with Sous Les Cieux holding the advantage over Galileo’s Choice. The pair drew right away from the rest of the field with Ruby Walsh keeping the Mullins runner up to his work to land the spoils by a length and a quarter with 15 lengths back to the third finisher Miss Nomer.
This was in all probability the best novice event that we have seen so far this season and it is on the cards that the first two will clash again before the jumping year ends. Mullins intimated that Sous Les Cieux is likely to be his best novice hurdler and he will be aiming him at the Grade One Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown over the Christmas period. He handled the testing ground well and was forced to make the running from a long way out.
In contrast Galileo’s Choice came from off the pace to deliver his challenge and certainly made the winner work hard. Word from the Weld camp suggested that the horse would be put away until the Spring when ground conditions will have improved and a repeat clash would be enough to fill most arenas.
Mullins saddled the favourite in the Grade One Hatton’s Grace Hurdle over a two mile and four trip but he was no match for Voler La Vedette and had to be content with second place. Bred by Margaret Brophy, the King’s Theatre mare had a good following in the betting market. She was held up just off the pace as the other Mullins runner Final Approach took the field along.
Heading to the second last flight jockey Andrew Lynch sent Voler La Vedette into the lead. From there she went steadily clear to hit the wire three and a half lengths to the good over Mourad, which just held the challenge of The Real Article for the runner-up prize.
Winning trainer Colm Murphy told me that his charge is a better and stronger animal this term. The trainer is looking at a couple of races at Leopardstown in late December and early in the new year at distances between two and three miles depending on ground conditions. She is bound to have the David Nicholson Mares Hurdle at Cheltenham as a target where she would run up against the Likes of Quevega and Unaccompanied, but if conditions are on the fast side she would have to be considered a doubtful runner.
All the aces
On paper at least Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown House Stud seemed to hold all the aces in the Grade One Drinmore Chase over two mile and four and so it proved but not exactly as planned as the Ruby Walsh ridden Bog Warrior simply destroyed his field to take the money at the expense of Shinrock Paddy.
Davy Russell, who is the retained rider to O’Leary, chose First Lieutenant mainly because he was the more experienced of his three runners but the Flemensfirth gelding made a dreadful error at the fence after Ballyhack and almost parted company with the jockey.
Although the combination battled back to get into contention before the straight the effort took its toll. Russell wisely decided to call it a day after the horse burst a blood vessel after the second last fence. Walsh had thrown down the gauntlet to the others from as early as the sixth fence and the pair never saw another rival as the finished in splendid isolation thirty one lengths to the good.
Trained by Tony Martin, who revealed that this is the best horse that he has come across so far. Bog Warrior had niggly problems early in his career but these are now in the past. Leopardstown is now on the agenda, but Cheltenham will only be considered it the going is on the easy side.
Philip Fenton will be trying to relive the Dunguib days with Venture Capital which lived up to his pre-race hype with a smooth success in the bumper. A good looking son of Presenting, the four-year-old was always prominent. He took over with a mile to race and did the business by three lengths from another son of the sire, Bright New Dawn.
Many shrewd judges were of the opinion that we will see plenty of winners emerging from this race and Fenton is no different. He revealed that the horse is already schooling over hurdles like a handicapper, but he would love to have another crack at the Champion Bumper at the Cotswolds.
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